As the heir apparent to the Thai throne, crown prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is likely to become the next Thai king.
However, due to his unpopularity among the Thai people, there is talk of his younger sister, princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, bypassing him and acceding to the throne.
As the next in line of succession to the Thai throne, the 61-year-old princess Sirindhorn is much more popular among her people than her elder brother.
Besides, she also has a very impressive resume.
After getting her PhD from the prominent Srinakharinwirot University, she became a history professor at the prestigious Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, the cradle of almost all senior officers and generals of the Thai military.
Such remarkable credentials have earned her a lot of respect within the military and among the populace.
Princess Sirindhorn also has very solid administrative and diplomatic experience, having served as her late father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s personal secretary for years.
After her father had become too sick to take foreign trips, Princess Sirindhorn often paid state visits to other countries on his behalf and has over the years established connections with foreign leaders.
As deputy chairperson of the Thailand Red Cross for a long time, Princess Sirindhorn has also earned high reputation and respect among major NGOs in the world.
In contrast, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn seems more like a middle-aged playboy who spends a lot of time and money in Europe throughout the year, hence his low popularity compared with his younger sister.
For centuries, the royal line of succession was based on primogeniture.
It was not until 1974 when the Thai constitution was amended that females were also allowed to inherit the throne. Therefore, Princess Sirindhorn is as much a legitimate heir to the throne as her elder brother.
However, Princess Sirindhorn does have certain disadvantages.
For example, her close relations with Beijing have sparked concerns over whether Bangkok’s longstanding ties with Washington may deteriorate once she becomes head of state.
Besides, the fact that princess Sirindhorn is still single and has no children has also put her at a huge disadvantage against her elder brother, not to mention that so far she hasn’t shown much interest in competing for the throne.
Perhaps one possible option is that Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and Princess Sirindhorn can form some sort of a diarchy: while Prince Vajiralongkorn becomes the real king, her younger sister can act as a de facto diarch and share some of the king’s duties, so that she can continue to serve her country with her international influence and connections.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 20
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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